- 30 October 2011 23.25 GMT
Chávez announced the latest takeover after saying that Venezuela refuses to pay compensation in foreign currency to Agropecuaria Flora, a local subsidiary of Britain’s Vestey Group.
Chávez said the company had demanded the government pay it in dollars for the previous expropriation of tens of thousands of acres. But the government insists in paying in bolivars, Venezuela’s currency.
It is difficult for foreign companies operating in Venezuela to repatriate profits and other income in bolivars because of foreign currency controls in the South American country. Representatives of Agropecuaria Flora did not answer calls seeking comment.
Venezuela’s expropriation of farm and ranch lands began in earnest in 2005, with the government employing a 2001 law allowing it to seize lands deemed idle or not adequately used.
Some landowners have negotiated compensation, while others have mounted legal challenges with mixed results.
The government has also seized some ranches for which it alleges the owners did not hold legal title in the first place.
Owners of large farms and cattle ranches have criticized the takeovers, arguing that Chávez’s socialist-inspired policies have failed to boost agricultural production and made Venezuela increasingly dependent on imports of food from countries such as Brazil and Argentina.